Sunday, 17 May 2015

A rainy day in Meknes

Since I came back from my second trip to Morocco in March, I have been having a recurring dream hat I plan a new itinerary in the country, and there's always a trip to Volubilis and Moulay Idriss that gets postponed or cancelled. As a matter of fact, when I was in Fez, I had to cancel my trip there, mostly because of the rain that didn't want to stop.

I did start my day with a train to Meknes, though. In my experience, trains in Morocco are safe, comfortable and cheap. A trip to Meknes from Fez of about 40 minutes cost me 20 dirham, less than 2 euro, but the train was half an hour late. Once in Meknes I was supposed to take a cab to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, but the pouring rain  and the aggressiveness of taxi drivers in this city put me off the trip. I decided to explore Meknes instead.

Meknes is not as touristic as Fez, but it is still one of the imperial cities of Morocco. The most beautiful thing are the gates: totally fascinating, colourful and very old. Bab Mansour is the most famous, but a trip around the city walls by taxi will show you the others.

One of the gate doors in Meknes
Overall, I found Meknes to be a bit dull, if compared to other places in Morocco. The main square, Place Lahdim, resembles Jemaa el-Fna, only without the life that makes that square one of the main tourist attractions of Marrakesh.

Place Lahdim
The souqs here are rather modern, with unattractive clothes made in China. I did take a walk in the more traditional parts, but I didn't find the whole experience as alluring as a walk in the medina of Fez or Essaouira. The irony was that Meknes was my 50th UNESCO world heritage site, and it was overall a bit disappointing.

Moroccan fashion

Since it was raining when I arrived in Meknes, I took shelter in Museum Dar Jamai. Like Museum Dar Si Said which I visited in Marrakesh, it was worth it more for the beautiful palace than for the exhibits. Inside the museum I met a French man who was travelling alone without a guidebook or anything, picking up advices from other travellers. Somehow he senses that I speak French, so I told him about the Roman ruins and he was very happy about it.

Inside the museum

Another room of the museum/palace
Meknes is not completely devoid of charm: you can find nice spots here and there, but I wouldn't make a detour to visit this city. The taxi  drivers here seemed to be desperate to make more money out of the few travellers who stop by, which is something that I haven't seen in Fez, where I found it very easy and stress-free to take a taxi.
I don't know if it was the bad weather, but even when it stopped raining I didn't see anything special in this city. What the locals referred to as great views ended up being just a glimpse of the hills around the city, the restaurants didn't look as inviting as in other parts of Morocco, and the city in general seemed a bit lifeless.

Street life in Meknes

Have you ever been disappointed by a UNESCO-listed heritage site? And if you have been to Meknes, did you have a different experience?
01 09 10